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Sustainable consumption and governance: reflecting on a research agenda for Ireland

Anna Davies, Frances Fahy, Henrike Rau, Jessica Pape


Contemporary consumption represents an archetypal ‘wicked problem’, being linked to climate change, biodiversity loss and resource depletion, while also functioning as a cultural signifier and a driver of economic growth and innovation. The Janus-faced nature of consumption is an important indicator of the complexity facing those who aspire to encouraging more sustainable consumption patterns. This paper argues that there are outstanding, and related, areas of contention that need further research in order to generate a more comprehensive and coherent picture of consumption and how it may be made more sustainable. In essence attention needs to be paid to the practices of consumption, its governance and also how practices and governance interact. This paper examines everyday practices and their regulation in two key areas of consumption in Ireland - how we get around (transport) and how we live in our homes (heating/cooling, lighting, cleaning and eating) - to identify current gaps in social science research. In conclusion a multi-pronged research framework for approaching these lacunae is outlined.

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